In-Depth: Collectible Craze
Items become more valuable in collections.
February 15, 2023
What might be an ordinary object used to attach photos and invites to a refrigerator to most is a collector’s item to sophomore Evan Voelker.
The collection began when Voelker was a child and his mother brought back a magnet from an international work trip. Voelker said he was intrigued by the design and wanted to know what magnets from around the world looked like. So, his mother continued the practice.
“They remind me that she was thinking of me during the trip,” Voelker said. “I get excited when she comes home because I get to see her again and I get a new magnet.”
If something is meaningful to you, it’s absolutely worth it to collect it.
— Evan Voelker
Now, Voelker has 12 magnets and counting. He said his favorites are three from Dubai that are durable and of high quality.
“If something is meaningful to you, it’s absolutely worth it to collect it,” Voelker said.
Voelker isn’t alone in collecting. In fact, approximately 40 percent of the American population collects something, according to Psychology Today.
Like Voelker, many collectors collect items from around the world to serve as souvenirs and mementos.
While browsing a gift shop in Key West, Florida, as a child, Rayan Khan, junior, stumbled upon a key-lime pie key chain. After being told the pie originated in Key West, Khan purchased the key chain as a memento of the trip.
“It became a habit,” Khan said. “Whenever my family went somewhere, we would get something that was unique to that geographic region. Something to remember that trip by.”
Since then, Khan has collected more than 100 souvenirs. His favorites include a china set depicting Australian birds from Australia, a wine bottle set from Hungary and a Mughal-era portrait from Pakistan.
“It’s cool to have things from different parts of the world,” Khan said. “Not only because it helps us understand and learn about different cultures, but also because it has helped me learn a lot about myself and what my interests are.”
Similarly, Hannah Brandon, has accumulated a piggy bank of various coins from around the world. Brandon said she credits her mom for the idea, as she would bring back the currency from whichever country she was traveling to for work.
Once Brandon began traveling herself, she continued the tradition.
Brandon said her favorite was the Bahamian dollar.
“I like to compare the coins to what we have in America,” Brandon said. “It’s crazy how a bunch of money in a different country really only means $1 in America.”
Brandon said the coins give her a glimpse into different cultures and parts of the world that she otherwise wouldn’t have.
“It’s a great way to have a souvenir,” Brandon said. “Especially if you don’t want to buy something.”
Another one of these collectors is Dylan Porath, sophomore.
Throughout his childhood, David Porath, sophomore, remembers building LEGOs with his family.
“They’re all around the house, my dad has them, my brother has them, so it’s a family thing,” Porath said.
When I’m older, I’ll collect even more, probably. It’s one of those things that is always fun and nostalgic for me, so I want to pass that down.
— Dylan Porath
His father’s love of the toy as a kid was passed down to him, and as a result, Porath has been collecting LEGO sets ever since.
Though his collection includes nearly 40 sets, Porath said the Minecraft ones hold a special place in his heart.
Porath said he plans to pass the tradition down to his own kids someday.
“When I’m older, I’ll collect even more, probably,” Porath said. “It’s one of those things that is always fun and nostalgic for me, so I want to pass that down.”
The feeling of nostalgia is the reason why Lisa Del Pizzo, science teacher, collects snow globes.
“I’ve always loved Christmas time,” Del Pizzo said. “When my kids were little, I’d get them Disney snow globes, and after that I continued to buy them. Now I have a collection that I’ve named ‘snowglobe city’.”
Out of the 30 snow globes Del Pizzo has collected over the years, she said her favorite features a red station wagon with a Christmas tree on top.
“It just makes me happy,” Del Pizzo said.
1,000,000 Baseball Cards located off of Manchester Road, has been in business since 1989. Though the store specializes in baseball cards, they carry a multitude of sports-related items.
Tom Wallis, an associate at 1,000,000 Baseball Cards, has been a collector for 40 years. Wallis started collecting Chicago Cubs and Chicago Bears memorabilia while living in Chicago during his adolescence.
Everybody collects something on some level. It’s like a treasure hunt. Who doesn’t want a good treasure hunt?
— Jamie Walters
“It’s a part of your nostalgia, your memories as a kid,” Wallis said. “You know my dad took me to Wrigley Field when I was 8 years old, and seeing a baseball game for the first time and I got to meet a bunch of the Cubs players when I was eight years old, that’s really a cool thing.”
Wallis said he just really loves sports as a whole. He played college football and baseball has always been an interest for him. This sparked his interest in collecting.
“Well everybody collects something. It’s just a fun hobby, whether it’s Beanie Babies, antiques or Pokemon,” Wallis said.
Jamie Walters, manager at Chesterfield Antique Mall, has been a vendor at the store for eight years and has noticed a change in the items that are popular now versus what was popular then.
“Now, collectibles are selling like crazy again,” Walters said. “There was a bit of a lull for a couple of years, but especially now that it’s Christmas time, people are collecting vintage Christmas items. It’s funny when we have toys come in that are similar to the toys I played with as a kid.”
Walters said she interacts with hundreds of people every day, and each one is looking for something different to either add to or help begin their collection.
“Everybody collects something on some level,” Walters said. “It’s like a treasure hunt. Who doesn’t want a good treasure hunt?”
While there are both internal and external factors that motivate people to collect, there is a psychological explanation for it as well. The endowment effect describes humans’ tendency to value something more once they own it. Therefore, people feel more inclined to purchase and collect these items as they will hold more value to them, according to Shirley M Mueller, neuroscientist and collector.
This phenomenon is called the oddball experiment. Specific areas of the human brain light up when the unusual is presented, which can explain why people seek novelty when collecting.
Other collectors collect to feel closer to history through acquisition of antiques, and others may enjoy the intellectual satisfaction it brings.
Aside from these ideas, collectors are motivated by the simpler sense of pride that greets them when they find something to add to their collection. The idea of discovering something no one else has evokes a sense of pride in many.
“My collection is not the biggest, but I am pretty proud of it and what it may some day become,” Voelker said.